Tuesday, September 25, 2001

WKU president lends hand

Home becomes shelter and salvage center for fire victims

The Associated Press

        BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell's house is serving as a salvage center and a makeshift motel for students after Saturday's fire at The Gables apartments.

        “I'm running a dormitory right here,” said Mr. Ransdell's wife, Julie Ransdell.

        Eight firetrucks and 30 firefighters were dispatched at 3:03 a.m. Saturday when one the buildings in the complex went up in a blaze. Twelve apartments rented to 48 Western Kentucky students were destroyed.

        Some of the students moved in with friends; others moved in to the Drury Inn; but three students, Tanner Townsend, 21, Jerry Cecil, 20, and the Ransdell's son, Patrick, 21, moved into the president's home.

        All three students were roommates and are members of Western's baseball team.

        “It's a president's worst nightmare to get a call where his students live in a building that is on fire,” Gary Ransdell said. “It adds a whole new dimension when the call comes from your son who is living in that building.”

        From 3:30 a.m. to 3:45 a.m., Mr. Ransdell went from student to student trying to find out if anyone was in the building while firefighters fought the blaze.

        “After about 30 minutes, students confirmed everybody was accounted for, so that was a big sigh of relief,” he said.

        All the items that could be salvaged from the complex were taken to Ransdells' garage.

        “I've got about eight kids who have things here in the garage,” Mrs. Ransdell said. “We're slowly going through it, trying to dry books out, trying to get the clothes washed and then drying off the electronics.”

        The Ransdells washed more than 40 loads of laundry Sunday and even put their driveway to use in the salvage effort.

        “We had their textbooks all over the driveway ... trying to get those dry,” Mrs. Ransdell said.

        Mr. Ransdell said he enjoys being with students anytime; however, this “is not the kind of circumstance you want ... to create houseguests, but we love having them around.”

        He said students came by his house Sunday hoping to find some of their belongings.

        “One girl only had the jeans and T-shirt she had on,” he said. “We're seeing a good bit of that and that's tough for those people.”

        Bowling Green Fire Chief Gerry Brown said the fire is under investigation, but he does not suspect foul play.


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- WKU president lends hand